I sat nervously in front of the classroom while my hands shook uncontrollably. I sat and watched each member of my staff walk into the classroom one by one. Lumps formed in my throat as I tried to swallow them into my churning stomach. These were the chosen students who were going to depend on me, their editor-in-chief, for guidance and assistance. All of a sudden, a piercing ringing of the bell indicated that it was time for me to begin. I was the person in charge of nineteen fellow peers.
I wasnt sure what to expect while hundreds of questions raced through my mind: What if they dont listen to me? What if Im not experienced enough? Can I just forget about this and go home? The first day of class was the most nerve wracking and scariest day I have ever had to experience during the course of my short-lived newspaper career. Coordinating a high school newspaper staff and creating a newspaper every three weeks is a lot of fun, but on the other hand, it involves a lot frustration. Much goes into producing a high school newspaper, but most important is the ability to manage and organize a group of people within an allotted amount of time.
Patience is also crucial in order to understand and help other staff members. However, when its completed, the satisfaction is its own reward. Before understanding the entire newspaper production process, there are a few key people whose duties rely heavily on it.
The editor-in-chief is the actual big cheese or head honcho. As the editor-in-chief, it was my job to organize and lead the class during every issue to produce a newspaper. This stressful position required good leadership skills, people skills, and production skills since the other staff members depended on me, the editor-in-chief, to direct them.
The advisor is usually a teacher who doesnt actual run the class, but advises the editor-in-chief when needed. Section editors have the duty of laying out each page in their section. Some section editors have assistants to help them, but most dont because they usually only have two to three pages. Reporters are the glue in this process. Everything relies on their story and the deadlines they meet. Their main duty is to meet the deadlines. If a reporter misses a deadline, or they are late, then the entire production process gets held back.
For instance, if a story is not ready, the section editor cant layout the page without a story; the photographers cant size the pictures onto a page without a story on it; the advisor cant final that page until its completed with a picture and story on it; and finally, the editor-in-chief cant take the paper to press without the pages finaled. So, everything that happens revolves around the reporter and his/her story. The second duty of a reporter is to write a story interesting enough so that the readers will read it. There is no point in writing a story just to take up space.
If that were the case, then the efforts (of the entire class) would be meaningless. Photographers also have many duties. They are responsible for taking and printing all the pictures that will be placed in the newspaper. The pictures must be visible and exciting to attract the readers attention to the story. Sometimes, they have to take twenty or thirty pictures of one athletic event to get that one good action shot. In order to follow the procedures of newspaper production, there are a few terms and newspaper lingo to understand.
Dummy sheets are the sheets of paper where section editors design the pre-layout of their pages. Each section editor is responsible for about two to three pages. To crop a picture means to cut a picture or clip art in the appropriate proportions to the picture box where it is to be placed. Copy is the actual text. All the cartoon-like pictures or hand-drawn pictures are the clip art designs. Gutters are the columns between the text that must remain empty. When a story or layout is finaled, the reporter has been through the process of getting it approved by the editor-in-chief, advisor, and section editor.
Finally, when we take the paper to press, we are taking the paper to the printer and they are distributed on a Friday. The day after each issue is distributed, the editor-in-chief and the advisor meet. During their meeting, they discuss the last issue and the problems that arose. Then, they organize the calendar for the next issue.
Organization and timing are the keys to producing a newspaper in a short amount of time. The newspaper production class was only one class period, so the majority of the work had to be done during the staffs free time..
After the editor-in-chief and advisor meet, the entire staff gather around in a circle to discuss their feelings of the previous issue and what they heard the student body comment on. Next, the entire class brainstorms for current news story ideas for the next issue. Then, each staff member gives a detailed report of their beats to give more news story ideas. Beats are the assigned clubs or organizations around the school that each staff member must keep in contact with. They must record current events or special projects that the club will or have participated in or are coordinating. For instance, one staff member may be assigned to keep current on the activities of the Drama Club. Every week, it is the reporters responsibility to investigate whether or not anything new is happening, so when the editor-in-chief asks for a beat report, the reporter must be prepared to give one.
Finally, all the stories are assigned. This entire step usually takes one day. The next step is the first deadline. First deadline is three days after the stories are assigned and all first drafts of the stories must be turned in to the editor-in-chief.
While they are finishing their stories to meet first deadline, the sections editors must also finish the dummy sheets of their section. On the day of first deadline, the editor-in-chief, section editors, and photographers meet to construct a photo list. Each section editor gives the photographer their request for pictures of the stories in their section and what types of pictures they are going to need. Two days after first deadline, second deadline is scheduled. This is when all stories are supposed to be turned in to the section editors with all the mistakes corrected from the first deadline editing.
Also, the photographers must have three-fourths of the pictures done by this time so the section editors can begin to layout the pages. At this time, the photos must be printed and available so the section editors can place picture boxes, captions, and headlines. Final deadline is next, usually one day after second deadline. Reporters only get one day after second deadline because their stories are expected to be done by this time with only minor grammatical mistakes for the advisor to catch. Now, the advisor meets with each individual reporter to final their story.
In order for a story to be finaled, it should have been approved by the editor-in-chief and section editors before it reaches the advisors desk. Then, the advisor must approve it to meet the printing standards set by the him/her. After the story is finaled, it is ready to be placed onto the pages by section editors.
Next, the late-night layout sessions come into place. The first layout deadline is three days after final deadline for the stories. During this deadline, all stories must be placed on the page, pictures must be printed so that they are ready to be cropped, and headlines must be placed.
Headlines are usually the most difficult and crucial task of layout because those first, big, couple of words above the story are what will attract readers to read the corresponding article. This deadline is when the majority of work must be done before final layout deadline. Final layout deadline is the second to the last step of producing a newspaper. All pages must be done within the three days given after first layout deadline.
More time is given to section editors this deadline because they need the time to make corrections or reorganize their entire page. Sometimes unforeseen circumstances cause a reorganization of a section. Maybe pictures didnt come through, or a reporter who missed a deadline had a story that was too short, or ads need to be placed. Ads from local businesses are the foundation of the entire newspaper production process.
The money received from the businesses help pay for the printing costs. Without ads, there would be no newspaper. Sometimes, there is an abundance of ads and not enough space, so instead of cutting out money, we must cut out a story. Finally, after the paper is free of mistakes and all the pictures are cropped, the editor-in-chief is ready to take the paper to press. This is the most exciting part of the entire process because this is when everything comes together. After three weeks of planning and hard work, everything weve worked for is done. Feelings of excitement and exasperation overcome the feelings of anger and annoyance that have surfaced during the three weeks of working side by side with the other staff members.
The printers usually take two days to print the issues and we get them back on a Friday, during second period. During third period, the newspapers are distributed throughout the school. Some newspapers are thrown in the garbage cans by disinterested students and some are actually read by others. The point of satisfaction is when teachers and fellow student compliment or commend the newspaper.
Criticisms are also welcomed in order for us to improve the next issue. No matter how many times weve seen the pages during the layout session, when we open the newspapers on Friday, it was like looking at it for the first time. However, the elation is short-lived. The process begins again on Monday.